The Downeaster passing through Wells, Maine.
Overview Type Regional rail System Amtrak Status Currently operating five round-trip trains daily Locale New England Termini Boston, Massachusetts
Stations 10 Daily ridership 1,311 daily (FY10) Operation Opened December 15, 2001 Owner Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority Operator(s) Amtrak Technical Line length 116 miles (187 km) Track gauge 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) Operating speed 79 MPH (max) Route mapLegend Brunswick Freeport 0 Portland 12 mi (19 km) Old Orchard Beach 16 mi (26 km) Saco-Biddeford 32 mi (51 km) Wells Maine/New Hampshire border 48 mi (77 km) Dover 54 mi (87 km) Durham-UNH 65 mi (105 km) Exeter New Hampshire/Massachusetts border 82 mi (132 km) Haverhill 103 mi (166 km) Woburn 116 mi (187 km) Boston North Station
The Downeaster is a 116-mile (187 km) regional passenger train service managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA) and operated by Amtrak, connecting North Station in Boston, Massachusetts, to Portland, Maine. With five daily round trips, the route carries 500,000 passengers annually, and was Amtrak's fastest-growing service in fiscal years 2006 and 2008.
The Downeaster uses the MBTA’s Lowell Line from North Station to Wilmington, the Wildcat Branch to Wilmington Junction, and the Haverhill/Reading Line to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire state line. From there to Portland, it uses the Pan Am Railways Freight Main Line. All of these lines were once part of the Boston and Maine Railroad; the part south of Wilmington Junction was once the mainline and a branch of the Boston and Lowell Railroad, and the rest was the mainline of the B&M.
If the Downeaster were to run solely on the Haverhill Line, it would conflict with the local commuter rail service, since the Downeaster makes no stops between Woburn and Haverhill. The use of the Wildcat Branch to cross between the Lowell and Haverhill lines allows the Downeaster to pass a Haverhill train.
No direct transfer exists between North Station and South Station, which serves Amtrak trains heading south and west out of Boston (see North-South Rail Link). Downeaster passengers who wish to connect with the rest of the Amtrak system can use the Orange Line to Back Bay Station, Orange and Red Lines to South Station, or take a taxi to Back Bay Station or South Station.
From Portland to Bangor, Concord Coach Lines operates Thruway Motorcoach service, scheduled to connect to the Downeaster, and treated as one continuous route for ticketing purposes. Some Thruway buses run from Portland to South Station, making a direct connection with Amtrak's other services.
The Downeaster offers two classes of service — Reserved Coach and Business Class — as well as a café car. All seats have electrical outlets. Free Wi-Fi (wireless internet) is available to passengers on all Downeaster trains.
The Downeaster also has a "train host" program, coordinated by Trainriders Northeast. Train hosts, available on some trains, are volunteers who provide passengers with information on destinations, attractions, and transfers.
The route of the Downeaster is similar to the route historically used by the Pine Tree, which was a joint Boston & Maine / Maine Central train from Boston to Bangor. The primary difference is that a motorcoach (bus) carries passengers for the Portland-Bangor leg of the trip.
The current passenger service from Portland to Boston North Station began running on December 15, 2001.
In fiscal year 2006, it was Amtrak's fastest-growing service, with ridership up 22.9% from the previous year. In fiscal year 2007, the service's ridership increased nearly 8%. In fiscal year 2008, with the addition of a fifth round trip, ridership increased by 28% — 12% more than projected. Fiscal year 2008 ticket revenue was $6,076,517, an increase of 33% over fiscal year 2007 and 14% more than projected. In fiscal year 2010, a total of 478,463 passengers traveled on the train, an increase of 3.9% from fiscal year 2009's total of 460,474, and ticket revenue increased 3.3% to $6,711,893 from fiscal year 2009's total of $6,496,040. In fiscal year 2011, ridership topped 500,000 for the first time.
North Station in Boston serves the most passengers on the Downeaster route. The Portland Transportation Center is Maine's busiest station, and Exeter has the most boardings and detrainings in New Hampshire.
The Downeaster is managed by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority and operated by Amtrak. As of December 2007, operating the Downeaster costs $13.5 million per year, of which $6 million is covered by fares paid by passengers. The federal government provides $6 million per year through 2008, and Maine $1.5 million per year; after that, Maine will have to take over paying the entire shortfall if service is to continue. Massachusetts and New Hampshire do not contribute directly to the Downeaster's operational budget even though the train stops in those states.
Expansion and development
An expansion project currently underway will add passenger train service along Maine's Atlantic coastline from Portland to Brunswick. A study by the Chicago-based Center for Neighborhood Technology suggests that the extension, combined with commercial developments along the "Downeaster Corridor," could generate several billion dollars in construction investments plus $55 million annually in tax revenue for the state of Maine.
Ground was broken for the Brunswick station on October 18, 2008. This project is a retail development centered around a new train station with future service south on the Downeaster, and north to Rockland on Maine Eastern Railroad. It will include shops, condominiums, and office space.
On January 28, 2010, the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority received approval for a $35 million grant from the federal government to fund track and signal upgrades for the Portland-Brunswick line. Pan Am Railways began work on the line in summer 2010. NNEPRA hopes to have passenger rail service to Brunswick by 2012.
- Trainriders Northeast
- Railroad history of Portland, Maine
- ^ a b "AMTRAK SETS NEW RIDERSHIP RECORD, THANKS PASSENGERS FOR TAKING THE TRAIN (link to PDF download)". Amtrak. 11 October 2010. http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer/Page/1237608337144/1237608345018?passedMonth=October&passedYear=2010. Retrieved 26 October 2010.
- ^ http://tickets.amtrak.com, accessed 10 Oct 2007.
- ^ a b "On Board Services - Amtrak Downeaster". Amtrak Downeaster. http://www.amtrakdowneaster.com/on-board/coach-class. Retrieved 07 February 2011.
- ^ "Trainriders NE - Host Program." The Official Site of Trainriders NE. 05 May 2009 <http://www.trainridersne.org/WebPages/TRNE_HostProgram/host>.
- ^ Billings, Randy (11 November 2011). "Amtrak Downeaster rolls out electronic tickets, improved Wi-Fi". Sun Journal. http://www.sunjournal.com/news/business/2011/11/11/amtrak-downeaster-rolls-out-electronic-tickets-improved-wi-fi/1113947. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- ^ "Amtrak Fact Sheet, FY2006, State of Maine". 2006-12-01. http://www.amtrak.com/pdf/factsheets/MAINE06.pdf. Retrieved 2008-02-11
- ^ "FY08 Summary Report" (Press release). Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. June 2008. http://amtrakdowneaster.com/documents/PerformanceReportJune2008.pdf. Retrieved 2009-01-08.
- ^ Associated Press (11 July 2011). "Downeaster ridership tops 500,000 for 1st time". Portland Press Herald. http://www.pressherald.com/news/Downeaster-tops-500000-for-1st-time-.html. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
- ^ http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=Amtrak/am2Route/Vertical_Route_Page&c=am2Route&cid=1081256321869&ssid=134
- ^ Woodard, Colin (December 24, 2007). "Amtrak Downeaster: Successful train faces uncertain future". Christian Science Monitor. http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/1224/p02s01-usgn.html. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- ^ Chappell, George (April 10, 2008). "Report: Downeaster train will generate billions". Bangor Daily News: p. A5.
- ^ [White House Published Document: Recovery Act High Speed Rail Awards | http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/hsr_awards_summary_public.pdf]
- ^ Bell, Tom (28 January 2010). "$35 million grant will allow Amtrak to expand train service to Brunswick". Portland Press Herald. http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/story.php?id=311808&ac=PHnws. Retrieved 28 January 2010. [dead link]
- ^ Sharp, David (December 13, 2009). "Amtrak's Downeaster hopes to tap stimulus money". Associated Press. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5geGTQ7kRVvAN5K7_yseSmcsbqSYQD9CIIC600. Retrieved 2009-12-14.
- Amtrak - Routes - Northeast - Downeaster
- The Downeaster official web site
- Downeastriders.us - A passenger's guide to Downeaster travel
- TrainRiders Northeast - A non-profit, volunteer organization dedicated to bringing modern and efficient passenger rail service to Northern New England.
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